Originally Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2012, 12:07 am
Last Updated: Oct. 23, 2012, 7:45 am
Ducks' deal breaks down; but season still on for Mallards
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By Steve Tappa, email@example.com
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This weekend the Quad City Mallards open their 16th season, and 18th for minor-league hockey locally, despite an 11th-hour ownership deal falling through. The Central Hockey League has reportedly assumed control, with questions about the impending season and future of the franchise to be addressed today during a press conference at Moline's i wireless Center.
The question was put to Central Hockey League commissioner Duane Lewis last week.
With Club 9 Sports nearly $400,000 in debt, and the CHL brokering a deal for new ownership, had the league effectively stepped in to take control of the Quad City Mallards?
"That's not our intention,'' Lewis said at the time. "We're not in the business of doing that. We try and put good ownership groups in place and let them move forward.''
Trouble is, according to well-placed sources, negotiations broke down over the weekend, leaving the CHL in control and still looking for new investors four days before the Mallards' home opener.
The Mallards have called a noon press conference today at Moline's i wireless Center to discuss the impending season and the team's future.
Lewis, reportedly now back at the league office in Arizona after spending much of the last week in town, was unavailable for comment.
Phone calls, emails or text messages also went unreturned by Club 9 president Jon Pritchett, i wireless Center Executive Director Scott Mullen, Mallards vice president Ryan Simmons, QC coach Terry Ruskowski and Mallards media relations director Brian Lavelle.
Mullen, Simmons and Ruskowski, "will each address the media regarding the team, this weekend's season opener and the coming season as a whole,'' a media advisory about the press conference said.
Ruskowski also will be officially introduced, after spending the last week locally getting a team ready for this three-game weekend, and more than two months after getting hired in the wake of David Bell's messy exit over unpaid salary and housing issues.
"Select Mallards players'' also will be available for interviews on the Mallards' annual media day, the team advisory said.
What's missing from the release is the introduction of new ownership, with Lewis talking to an unnamed entity the last month about taking over from Club 9, which reportedly wanted to shut down the team.
The negotiations delayed the start of the Mallards' training camp nine days after other CHL teams started fall workouts, leading to the cancellation of two exhibition games and last Friday's scheduled road opener at Wichita.
The Mallards were finally allowed to practice last Wednesday, when an insurance bill was paid, presumably by the league, although at the time Lewis dodged that question.
"It will be worked out with the insurance (company) and the ownership,'' the commissioner said last week, dancing through an admittedly delicate negotiation.
Despite the setback, the Mallards are preparing to open their 16th season, and 18th for minor league hockey locally, Friday at Tulsa.
QC's home opener is Saturday against Tulsa. The Flock also hosts Wichita on Sunday.
Lavelle already has sent a weekly release about the weekend games.
Ruskowski also reported earlier in the day the team is on track to play.
Seven Canadians still are waiting clearance to cross the border from U.S. Immigration officials.
However, the Mallards have 12 forwards, five defensemen and two goalies currently in camp. The CHL requires at least 13 skaters for a game.
If the Canadians are not cleared in time for weekend action, Lewis had said they will be carried as inactive members of the team until the roster can be adjusted.
Teams have 48 hours before game time to file a lineup with the league, with usually 18 or 19 players on the roster.